1 Samuel 18:9
And Saul eyed David from that day forward (ver. 9). How extraordinary are the moral contrasts which are often presented in human life! The friendship of Jonathan here stands in opposition to the envy of Saul. Hardly had David experienced the one before he was exposed to the other. "His victory had a double issue, Jonathan's love and Saul's envy, which God so mixed that the one was a remedy of the other" (Hall). On the day of public rejoicing the seeds of jealousy, envy, and hatred were sown in his heart. He eyed David not with favour, as before, but with dislike on account of the honour given to him beyond himself. The general suspicion which he entertained in consequence of the intimations of Samuel concerning his successor also seems to have fastened on him as the man; and henceforth he looked upon him as a dangerous rival. "Mingling with his constitutional malady, it poisoned his whole future relations with David." Of envy notice that -

I. IT TAKES ROOT IN AN EVIL HEART. In the case of Saul the soil was congenial and ready prepared by -

1. Alienation from God and conviction of his disfavour.

2. Selfishness and morbid concentration of thought upon himself.

3. Self-will, pride, and worldly ambition, still continuing and increasing.

4. Wrathful passion. He was very wroth, and the saying displeased him (ver. 8). "He who is apt to feel indignation, feels pain at those who are undeservedly successful; but the envious man, going beyond him, feels pain at every one's success" (Aristotle, 'Ethics').

II. IT GROWS IS THE SHADE OF ANOTHER'S PRE-EMINENCE in -

1. Popular estimation. "They have ascribed unto David ten thousands," etc. (ver. 8). "What properly occasions envy is the fruit of the accomplishments of others; the pre-eminence which the opinion of the world bestows, or which we dread it will bestow, on their talents above ours" (Blair).

2. Successful achievements, from which such preference proceeds. "The bright day brings out the adder." Prosperity is generally attended by envy.

3. Personal excellences. David "behaved himself wisely" (ver. 5); "very wisely" (ver. 15); "more wisely than all" (ver. 30). He acted prudently, cautiously, skilfully, and therefore prosperously. Base envy withers at another's joy, And hates the excellence it cannot reach (Thomson).

4. Divine approbation, which appears in prosperous enterprises. "And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him," etc. (ver. 12). "And Cain was very wroth," etc. (Genesis 4:5; 1 John 3:2). The envy felt at the favour shown to another by God is peculiarly criminal, because of its opposition to God himself.

III. IT IS MARKED BY MANY ODIOUS FEATURES.

1. Unreasonableness.

2. In most cases ingratitude. David had conferred a great benefit on Saul and Israel by his victory over Goliath; he "went out whithersoever Saul sent him," and fought his battles; and often soothed his melancholy with the music of his harp (ver. 10).

3. Injustice. He did him "shame" (1 Samuel 20:34) by entertaining suspicions of his loyalty and treating him as a traitor.

4. Ungodliness and all uncharitableness. "Charity envieth not." "Envy is the worst of all passions, and feedeth upon the spirits, and they again upon the body; and so much the more because it is perpetual, and, as it is said, keepeth no holidays" (Bacon, 'Essays').

IV. IT IS PRODUCTIVE OF MUCH DEADLY FRUIT, in relation both to others (Proverbs 27:4) and to the envious man himself (Proverbs 14:30); partly of hatred and partly of grief. "As it shows itself in hatred it strikes at the person envied; but as it affects a man in the nature of grief it recoils and does execution upon the envier. It lies at the heart like a worm, always gnawing and corroding and piercing it with a secret, invisible sting and poison" (South, 'Sermons,' 58.). In Saul it produced unrest of soul, increased subjection to the power of evil - "it came to pass on the morrow," etc. (ver. 10); ungovernable rage - "he poised the javelin" twice; craft and hypocrisy; fear (vers. 11, 15); continual enmity (ver. 21); deliberate avowal of murderous intentions (1 Samuel 19:1); open and unceasing persecution; despair and self-destruction. "When in the last judgment envy is placed at the bar of God, what an indictment will he laid against the evil spirit! The insulting anger of Eliab, the cruelty of Joseph's brethren, the murderous wrath of Cain, and the greatest share in the greatest crime in the world - the crucifying of the Lord of glory - will be charged upon him. To cast this demon out of our bosoms before that final condemnation is one purpose of Jesus, and with all our hearts we should pray for his complete and. speedy victory" (C Vince). Conclusion: - In order to the cure or prevention of this evil passion, seek a renewed heart; dwell much on the Divine love "that spurns all envying in its bounty;" estimate aright temporal advantages; entertain lowly thoughts of self; learn to admire excellence in others, and regard it as if it were your own; check the first impulse of jealous or envious feeling; and "commit thy way unto the Lord."

"O man! why place thy heart where there doth need
Exclusion of participants in good?
Heaven calls, And, round about you wheeling, courts your gaze
With everlasting beauties. Yet your eye
Turns with fond doting still upon the earth.
Therefore he smites you who discerneth all"


(Dante, 'Purg.' 14.) - D.







And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
It is the enmity of Saul which we are to consider — its beginning, its rapid growth, its deadly purpose. The excitement of the war being over, the king has time to think of himself, and he is filled with thoughts of his dethronement; and the envy of David eats into his heart so greedily that his old frenzy is brought on again. On the very next day his heart grew malicious toward David; the evil spirit seized him once more. "Whether this was a diabolical possession or a mere mental malady the learned are not agreed. It seems to have partaken of both. There is too much of apparent nature in it to permit us to believe it was all spiritual, and there was too much of apparent spiritual in it to suffer us to believe it was all natural." This we know from the plain record: "The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul," and "an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." So that, negatively and positively, the hand of the Lord was in it. And yet he was eating the fruit of his own doings — "given over," as Paul says, "to a reprobate mind." But Saul's hate has not abated with the passage of the frenzy. The direct assault has failed, but there are surer methods in reserve. Men are cheap now to the king, who sees his crown in danger, and ten thousand slain or captured will not be missed if David but goes down with them. Yet again he fails. David can wield a thousand men as skilfully as he can swing his sling, and the king grows bitterer still. Saul learns that his other daughter loves this brilliant young captain, and it is surmised that her passion was returned, else the spirited soldier had not submitted so tamely to his twice winning and twice losing Merab. Not to gratify the heart of either does Saul give his consent now; he hopes that Michal "may be a snare to him" and the hand of the Philistine may be against him. He slyly mentions a dower — not directly, but through his courtiers — such as a "poor man," skilled in fight, might give to a king, the procuring of which he surely thought would bring him his death. And his heart must have been filled with malignant joy as he heard that "he and his men" (his two or three attendants, not his ten hundred) bad sallied forth to slay one hundred men. But "before the days were expired" back be comes, bringing the designated trophies in double tale. But why pursue the disgraceful story further? Each defeat but fans the flame to greater fury, and Saul soon throws off the thin disguise with which he has marked his deadly purpose, and openly "spake to Jonathan, his sons and to all his servants that they should kill David" (1 Samuel 19:1.) At length the sad end came. The life that bad begun in such brilliant promise was closed by self-destruction. His enmity was fruitless, except in bitterness to himself and trouble to Israel. It could not set aside the plans of the Almighty: "His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure." These are the practical lessons which the unrelenting enmity of Saul suggests.(1) Beware of jealousy. "Let the misery Saul brought upon himself remind us what a magazine of self-torture every human spirit contains;" and no single disposition of the soul is more likely to touch off the magazine, and make of the "heart a hell of wildest disorder and ever-dripping woe," than the disposition of envy, jealousy, and revenge. Jealousy may lead any man who listens to its suggestions into hatred as fierce, and opposition as malignant, and thoughts as deadly, and at last defiance of God as blasphemous, as Saul manifested.(2) We are reminded by Saul's conduct how natural it is for a man to throw over on some other the blame of his own hurtful blunders or wilful misdeeds. Rarely, very rarely, do men go down by blunders all their own or wickedness springing from their own hearts. But for some other or others they bad been standing yet.(3) Saul's case may warn us of the great danger of becoming embittered and revengeful when going down in prosperity and losing influence and honour. Men. rarely stay long at the top. There is an established system of rotation in the universe as regards the tenure of its high places. Men may come down when at the height of their powers and opportunity, or they may stay up till waning powers tell them another must take the place. A blunder may give the start, or the scheming of others may do the work. But whatever causes it, let the declining man crucify his selfishness, curb his tongue from bitter words, and go down gracefully, sweetly, clothed in the kingly garments of dignified self-respect.(4) As Saul warns of what may take men down, David teaches how to rise in the face of opposition that it would seem should stop our progress. He who fears God will have the favour of the Lord.(5) We may see in Saul's fall and David's rise that God cannot be thwarted in His purposes. In spite of Saul's javelin, in spite of Saul's wily scheming, in spite of his pursuing warriors, in spite of the fierceness of the Philistines, he was chosen of the Lord and must take the crown. "Now, therefore, kings, be wise; be taught, ye judges of the earth;" "The Lord reigneth;" "He puts down one, and sets another up."

(T. H. Hanna, D. D.)

The incident teaches three things respecting good and bad men.

I. THE WICKED ARE OFTEN JEALOUS OF A GOOD MAN'S POPULARITY. "And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him." Saul's behaviour to David reveals the progress of jealousy in four stages.

1. There is anger. "He was wroth."

2. There is envy. "And Saul eyed him from that day."

3. There is madness. "The evil spirit from God came upon him."

4. There is murder. "And Saul east the javelin: for he said, I will smite David even to the wall."It is a sure sign that the Spirit of God has left a man when he is jealous of his benefactor. Jealousy is a foolish passion, and inflicts self-injury. Jealousy is a wicked passion, and displeasing to God. Jealousy is a dangerous passion, and leads to the most fatal issues. "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand against envy?"

II. THE WICKED ARE OFTEN TERRIFIED BY A GOOD MAN'S SECURITY. "And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul." Sin makes a man a coward. "'Tis doing wrong creates such fears as these, renders us jealous, and destroys our peace." Saul's fear led to the adoption of the most desperate measures to ruin David.

1. Saul resolves to dismiss David. "Therefore Saul removed David from him, and made him his captain over a thousand." Saul wished to prevent David from gaining the affections of the courtiers, and also to excite against him the envy of his subordinates. In both intentions he was disappointed; "for all Israel loved David."

2. Saul endeavours to provoke David. Saul's change of purpose in giving his daughter to Adriel was designed to wound David's honour, and excite his resentment. David had just cause of complaint, but he did not utter a word of reproach against the glaring injustice.

3. Saul determines to kill David. Jealousy extorts the most costly sacrifices — gratitude, honour, affection. A bad man will barter away his own child to accomplish his ends. Under the promise of preferment there may lurk the most deadly designs. Fair words may proceed from a foul heart. The face may beam with the light of heaven, while the heart is inflamed with the passions of hell.

III. THE WICKED ARE OFTEN DEFEATED BY A GOOD MAN'S VALOUR.

1. In this encounter David fulfils the king's stipulation.

2. In this encounter David thwarts the king's purpose.

3. In this encounter David wins the king's daughter. God can make the impediments that are thrown in the way of His children aids to their progress. The subtle and deadly designs of our enemies are among the ordained purposes of God.

(J. T. Woodhouse.)

I. SAUL'S ENVY. Selfishness, that "root of bitterness" filled him. And from it there sprang the baleful poison-breathing blossom, envy. What a sin is this! Men "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season," but no pleasure in this — of all sins the most hateful. It is vexed at another's good. It sickens to hear another praised. Base, it

"Withers at another's joy,

And hates the excellence it cannot reach."Envy hath no holidays. Where it enters it poisons life. "It is a very hell above ground." Let us beware. Let us not in this thing give place to the devil, but resist him. This Book has solemn warnings enough against this abominable sin. The first death in our world was brought about by it, when Cain, "the devil's patriarch," as an old wrier calls him, "laid his cruel club on the innocent head of his brother Abel." It was the sin of Joseph's brethren. "The patriarchs," says St. Stephen, "moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt." It was the sin of Korah, who envied Moses, and of Ahab, who envied Naboth. And the crowning crime of history is put to its account, for the Pharisees for envy delivered our Lord to death.

II. MICHAEL'S DECEPTION. There was no need for the deception. It showed her distrust of God. It was wrong, and it led to a lie against the very man she loved. Better to die than to lie. You might as well steal from the rich to help the poor, as to seek by lies to help another. Trust in God and do the right and speak the right. Men may extenuate their falsehoods and call them white lies and "grey fibs." But God frowns away the epithets. He will not acknowledge them. He bids us speak truth one to another. He declares that lying lips are an abomination to Him; that "a lying tongue is but for a moment;" that "all liars" will be excluded from the Heavenly and Eternal City of Truth and Glory.

III. DAVID'S PRESERVATION.

1. From bodily peril he was preserved. As captain of a thousand guarding the frontier — a dangerous service; as proving his worthiness, by deeds of valour, of the hand of Merab. As escaping again and again and again, the hurled javelin that sought to pin him in death to the wall. As watched for by Saul's assassins; how imperilled, how preserved was David! Not by miracle. Human friendship helped him. Beautiful, magnanimous the pleading of Jonathan with Saul on his behalf. There was a true friend who worked for him with the patience and meekness of wisdom. And who, "with word in season," shamed the king from his murderous purpose. "So far did Jonathan's oratory and David's innocency together triumph in Saul's conscience." Thus, for a little while, a debtor to friendship and its successful plea, David had peace. Wifely love helped him. Michal refused to be, as Saul had hoped, a snare to her husband. She warned him of the men of blood that lay in wait for him. She let him "down through a window," and he escaped.

4. His own valour helped him. Great had been his victory over Goliath. But more than this was needed. His alert and constant watchfulness helped him. When he struck his harp he was never so absorbed in the song as to be heedless of the king. On that javelin sceptre his eye indeed needed to be fixed!

6. Yet the Lord preserved him. For these were but the means by which worked for him the Almighty Preserver of men; the God who had set His love upon him.

7. He was preserved from spiritual peril. He was unharmed by prosperity. With much to flatter him into forgetfulness of his lowly origin, to tempt him into the airs and assumptions of pride, he walked humbly because he walked with God.

(G. T. Coster.)

Keep in mind the undoubted anointing of David, and then see what untoward and heartbreaking experiences may befall men whom God has sealed as the special objects of His favour and the high ministers of His empire. Given, a man called of God to a great work, and qualified for its execution, to find the providences which will distinguish his course. A child might answer the easy problem: His career will be brilliant — his path will be lined with choice flowers — he will be courted, blessed, honoured on every hand. Look at the history of David for a contradiction of this answer. We shall find persecution, hatred, difficulty, hunger, cold, loneliness, danger upon danger; yet he who endures them all is an anointed man — a favourite of heaven. The history, so far as we shall be able to trace it, shows four things respecting the discipline of an anointed man: —

I. THAT GREAT HONOURS ARE OFTEN FOLLOWED BY GREAT TRIALS. These trials not to be looked at in themselves, but in their relation to the honours which went before. Imagine a garden discussing the year as if it were all winter. Look at the temptation assailing David, in the fact that he alone had slain the enemy of Israel. Something was needed on the other side to chasten his feeling. Men must be taught their weakness as well as their power.

II. THAT GREAT TRIALS GENERALLY BRING UNEXPECTED ALLEVIATIONS. "The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." The love of one true soul may keep us from despair. Love is fertile and energetic in device, See what Jonathan did. Love is more than a match for mere power. Love is most valued under such circumstances as David's. "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

III. THAT NO OUTWARD TRIALS CAN COMPARE IN SEVERITY WITH THE SELF-TORMENT OF WICKED MEN. We are apt to think that Saul did all the mischief, and David suffered it. That is an incomplete view of the case, Saul was himself the victim of the cruellest torment.

IV. THAT GREAT TRIALS, THOUGH CALLING FOR SELF-SCRUTINY, MAY NOT CALL FOR SELF-ACCUSATION. This is a point which should be put with great delicacy, because we are too apt to exempt ourselves from self-reproach. The question which the tried man generally asks himself is, What have I done? Days of misery have been spent in brooding ever that inquiry. The question is only good so far as it goes. It should be succeeded by another — What is God doing? Imagine the silver in the refining fire asking, What have I done? — not knowing that it is being prepared to adorn the table of a king! Imagine the field asking, What have I done, that the plough should cut me up? We are strong only so far as we see a Divine purpose in the discipline of our life. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." "Let patience have her perfect work." We are polished by sharp friction. We are refined by Divine fire. Sorrow gives the deepest, and sweetest tone to our sympathy. We should be driven mad by uninterrupted, ever-augmenting prosperity. Over every jealous soul the hand of the Lord is omnipotent. Look at Saul, and the case of David is hopeless: look beyond him, and see how by a way that he knew not the shepherd was being trained to be mighty among kings, and chief of all who sing the praises of God.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The king of Israel has fairly entered on a course of stern hostility to David. With the history of this ruling purpose his whole subsequent career is darkened.

1. The deadly nature of Saul's enmity. A less thorough tyrant would at the most have deemed confinement retribution stern enough for the crimes of personal bravery, prudent conduct, a happy successfulness given by God, and a high popularity with the people. But Saul's enmity, once kindled, could be quenched only by blood. "Jealousy is cruel as the grave." With Saul, as with all tyrants in whom conscience is not quite dead, and fear is keenly alive, it was felt as a desperate necessity that he should proceed to extremities. And so he sought the life of David. Nothing lower would content him. And from that inner hall where the jealous monarch nursed his wrath, the password went that David be destroyed. The persevering obstinacy of it. The proofs of this are mournfully abundant. It may be measured by the plans it contrived, the time during which it lasted, and the obstacles which it overcame.

2. The plans which it contrived. A device to make him fall by the sword of the Philistines. But how sad is the picture of an unnatural father sacrificing the domestic affections at the shrine of his kingly jealousy! Making a daughter's love the vehicle of vengeance on its object! A state alliance for mere political purposes is bad enough; but to make holiest feelings the slaves, not of public interest, but of private resentment, is immeasurably worse. He assails him again with his own hand, and sends secret agents to his house to slay him. He escaped to Samuel. Two companies of messengers were despatched in pursuit. Yes, from the very horns of the altar the relentless king would drag his victim. But a mighty interposition came from the invisible to shield the innocent.

3. The time during which it lasted. The usual calculations make it eight or nine years. This surely is too brief a period to admit of occurrences so important, numerous, and varied as the history contains. But assuming the accuracy of the estimate, how tenacious must have been the life of a resentment which reigned so long! Time, the great soother of strife, lost here its mellowing charm. The dark passion seems to have wrapped his soul in perpetual gloom, and to have become to him a second nature.

4. The obstacles it surmounted. The monitions of his own conscience; the high character and deserved popularity of David; the immense and ceaseless trouble, and the neglect of grave public duties, involved in pursuing the fugitive. How stern and settled that resentment which so quickly quenched all soft emotion, and craved still for the blood of the brave, forbearing, and generous youth. We shudder at a passion, so fierce, sullen, and enduring. We cannot help discerning in it the malevolent working of hellish inspiration. Saul's forfeiture of the kingdom was absolute and irreparable. It was emphatically pronounced, more than once, by Him who cannot lie. And yet this poor worm of the dust dares to plant himself in the way, dares to conceive deliberately the design of arresting that series of events, thereby to defeat the purpose of Him who is "great in counsel and mighty in work," and throw upon the majesty of heaven the ignominy of a conspicuous failure. Amazing fact! Language cannot express the enormity. By what name shall we call it? Infatuation? Madness? Impiety? It is all three in one. To attempt plucking the stars from their seats, or stopping the tidal flow, were not greater madness than to strike at him who is shielded by omnipotence. To blaspheme in words the sacred name of God. Were not more daring impiety than to offer proud and obstinate resistance to His will. To profane and prostitute thus the time, faculties, and privileges He has given is to make life one great oath.

(P. Richardson. B. A.)

And Saul eyed David — that is to say, cast an askance vision at him; thought mean things of him; was sure there was a black side in him, and steadily looked for it. Saul allowed this looking for the black side in David to become a settled habit of his life. How sad the habit! And the seat of it was a mean, miserable envy. Remember those wise words which the wise Lord Bacon said of envy: "Envy is the worst of all passions, and feedeth upon the spirits, and they again upon the body; and so much more because it is perpetual, and, as it is said, keepeth no holidays." And this looking upon the black side is not an altogether ancient failing. Some people steadily look for the black side in other people. This, as we have just been saying, became Saul's way. Saul therefore perpetually misinterpreted David. One is pretty apt to see what one is bound to see. "I have been in India for many a year, and I never saw a native Christian the whole time." So spoke a colonel on board a steamer going to Bombay. Some days afterward the same colonel was telling of his bunting experience, and said that thirty tigers had fallen to his rifle. "Did I understand you to say thirty, colonel?" asked a missionary at the table. "Yes, sir, thirty," replied the officer. "Because," pursued the missionary, "I thought perhaps you meant three." "No, sir, thirty." "Well, now, that is strange; I have been in India twenty-five years and I never saw a wild live tiger all the while." "Very likely not, sir," said the colonel, "but that is because you did not look for them." "Perhaps it is so," admitted the missionary; "but was not that the reason you never saw a native convert?" So it is, one sees pretty generally what one is bound to see, tigers or Christians; and if one is bound to see a tiger, even though there may be no tigers in his country, he can imagine one easily enough, and that, so far as be is concerned, amounts to the same thing.

(W. Hoyt, D. D.)

Cicero's natural place was at Caesar's side; but to Caesar alone of his contemporaries be was conscious of an inferiority which was intolerable to him. In his own eyes he was always the first person. He had been made unhappy by the thought that posterity might rate Pompey above himself. Closer acquaintance had reassured him about Pompey, but in Caesar he was conscious of a higher presence, and he rebelled against the humiliating acknowledgment.

(Froude's Caesar.)

Napoleon the First absolutely detracted from the merits of his bravest marshals, and was as jealous of fame as a woman or a poet; whilst Oliver Goldsmith used to fume and fret, nay, would ridiculously interrupt the company when he found the praises and attention lavished on his friend, Dr. Johnson, were too strong for his jealous heart.

(H. O. Mackay.)

Dionysius the tyrant, out, of envy, punished Philoxinius the musician because he could sing, and Plato, the philosopher, because he could dispute better than himself.

(Plutarch.)

The friendly biographer of the artist Gustave Dore says of him: "He never heard of any other artist's success without brooding over it jealously and unhappily. He was ever on the qui vive of envious excitement, and lived with the constant fear gnawing his vitals that any day someone might come to the front and eclipse him." So the sin of selfishness always in the end punishes the soul that indulges it. It comes like Herodias, a dazzling creature, yet intent on blood. There is no cruelty like the cruelty of sin even to the sinner himself.

(H. O. Mackay.)

Cambyses, king of Persia, slew his brother because the latter could draw a stronger bow than himself; and Caligula, the Roman emperor, put his brother to death because he was specially handsome.

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